Submitted by: Peggy R. Hoyt, J.D., M.B.A., The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan, LLC, Family Wealth & Legacy Counsellors, One Senior Place Resident Business

It is that time of year again. Many young people will be heading off to college in the fall. You’ve thought of everything for your college-bound child—housing, books, a laptop—but what about his or her power of attorney? One thing often overlooked is when children turn 18 they are considered adults under the laws of most states, including Florida. Even though, as a parent you may be footing the college tuition bill, when your child turns 18, he or she is legally independent. With this legal independence comes a host of new rights for your child and the termination of certain rights you previously had as a parent.

Access to medical information, particularly in the event of an emergency, is one such right. What if something happens to your college age child (now legally an adult) and someone needs to make medical decisions? Is it clear that you, the parent, will be the one to make your child’s medical decisions? Without a properly drafted and signed Designation of Health Care Surrogate or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, the answer is, not necessarily.

Additionally, federal law (HIPAA) has restricted a medical providers’ ability to disclose confidential information about a patient without prior consent. Parents of college age children may not be given access to medical information in the event of an emergency. This was a major problem during the Virginia Tech tragedy when parents tried to contact hospitals in order to determine whether their child had been injured. The fix is easy: a HIPAA Release. This release pre-authorizes medical providers to speak with named individuals about a patient’s condition. We believe college age children should have a HIPAA Release so that not only Mom and Dad, but other named family members, will be able to communicate with medical providers regarding the child’s status in the event of an emergency.

Another issue which often arises for college students and their parents is once a child turns 18, the parent can no longer make financial decisions or respond to inquiries on the child’s behalf. So, what happens when financial and/or legal issues arise at home and your child is away at school and cannot address them? What if you want access to school academic records? A General Durable Power of Attorney can be executed appointing you, as agent, to manage financial and legal matters while your child is away.

These legal documents may seem of minimal importance in the midst of packing, parties, and goodbyes, but they can be vital. If you are granted power of attorney, you can help your child with everyday tasks like responding to a jury duty summons or renewing a passport, driver’s license, or car registration. More importantly, having power of attorney allows you to make medical decisions for your child in the event of an emergency.

THE LAW OFFICES OF HOYT & BRYAN, LLC
FAMILY WEALTH & LEGACY COUNSELLORS
MARGARET “PEGGY” R. HOYT, J.D., M.B.A. †*
RANDY C. BRYAN, J.D.† ‡
SARAH S. AUMILLER, J.D.
†BOARD CERTIFIED IN WILLS, TRUSTS & ESTATES
‡BOARD CERTIFIED IN ELDER LAW
*CERTIFIED LEGACY ADVISOR™

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